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R150-million scandal kingpin “will be out office today”

AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER

Dr Anban Pillay, a top South African civil servant identified as the kingpin in the R150-million communication tender scandal has been served with a suspension letter and would be “out of the office today”, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has announced

Phaahla told a media briefing that he had only received the report of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) on Wednesday and could only act now. The report had been with South African president Cyril Ramaphosa for weeks.

The SIU’s report found that Pillay, then acting-Director  General in the Department of Health, lied and committed financial misconduct. “We were able to act as of today because, without further substantive documentation, we couldn’t take further steps. But the acting DG, Dr Anban Pillay will be out of the office before the end of business day today,” Phaahla said

Sources have told The African Mirror that Anban’s name is among the 18 names that have been submitted to the National Prosecuting Authority for a decision.

Ramaphosa and the SA government have come under pressure because Pillay has remained on the job, despite the SIU findings against him.

The South African president has pleaded for patience, arguing that due process of the law must be allowed to unfold.

The SIU also found that Pillay lied to the National Treasury when he applied for a deviation from the Public Finance Management Act so that the Digital Vibes contract could be approved.

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“The obtained evidence indicates that Dr Pillay, as the ‘Acting’ DG of the NDOH during the Covid-19 media campaign, should be criminally prosecuted for ‘financial misconduct’. “Furthermore, Dr Pillay, in a letter to the National Treasury dated 11 May 2020 where he requested approval to deviate from normal procurement procedures, made numerous material intentional misrepresentations to the National Treasury in an attempt to obtain belated approval to deviate from normal procurement procedures. The obtained evidence indicates that he committed fraud in this regard.,” the SIU said in its report.

It emerged yesterday that former Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, Pillay and two senior civil servants and his two former associates who illegally won the R150-million communication tender from the Department of Health, face possible criminal charges.

A report by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which is expected to be handed over to the National Prosecutions Authority, was made public by President Cyril Ramaphosa, has found that Mkhize lied and was guilty of potentially unlawful conduct. The SIU found that there were prima facie criminal cases against the owners of Digital Vibes – Tahera Mather and Naadira Mitha.

The SIU found that Digital Vibes paid R 6 720 for repairs at a property belonging to Mkhize. The SIU also found that:

  • On 2 May 2020, Digital Vibes transferred R 300 000 (via a company belonging to Mather) to a company belonging to the Minister’s son.
  • On 4 May 2020, Digital Vibes paid an amount of R 160 000 to a Pietermaritzburg car dealership in respect of the purchase of a second-hand motor vehicle (i.e. a 2003 Toyota Land Cruiser) for the Minister’s son. This motor vehicle was registered in the name of the Minister’s son. 
  • At the time of the above-mentioned transactions, the NDOH had transferred approximately R 50 million to Digital Vibes for services related to the Covid-19 media campaign. 
  •  Digital Vibes also, by way of having Electronic Fund Transfers converted to cash, caused significant amounts of cash to be paid to the Minister’s son. 
  • At a press briefing that was held on 26 May 2021 regarding the Digital Vibes contract, the Minister denied that he or his family had benefited from the deal. “This denial was, objectively speaking, untrue, as the Minister’s son and the Minister himself (via property belonging to him) had directly benefited from Digital Vibes, who in turn had benefited from the NDOH contracts,” the SIU said in the report.
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On Digital Vibes, Mather and Mitha, the SIU, the obtained evidence further indicated the following:

  • Mather and Mitha committed fraud in that they held out to the Department of Health that Digital Vibes was tendering for the NHI media campaign contract, whereas in fact,  Mather and Mitha used Digital Vibes as a front in order to hide the fact that they were tendering for the contract and “disguised” this, due to the fact that they were close associates of Dr Mkhize, who was the Executive Authority of the NDOH, which was awarding the NHI media campaign contract. 
  •  Digital Vibes, owned by Hariram, committed fraud in that Digital Vibes was tendering for the NHI media campaign contract, whereas in fact, Digital Vibes and  Hariram were fronting for Mather and Mitha in this regard. 
  • Digital Vibes, Hariram, Mather, Mitha, direct family members of the Minister, former associates of the Minister and family members of former associates of the Minister, contravened the law in that they paid and received gratifications resulting from the fact that the NDOH had irregularly and unlawfully awarded contract to Digital Vibes in respect of the NHI – and the Covid-19 media campaigns
  • Digital Vibes failed to declare and pay company tax and failed to pay the required VAT to the South African Revenue Service.

The SIU said it has evidence that justifies the blacklisting of Digital Vibes from conducting business with the public sector.

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The SIU also disclosed that it has collected evidence justifying the institution of disciplinary action against several officials in the Department of Health.

By The African Mirror

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